Athletes of the Week: Barrow’s state champion wrestlers Tu’ifua and Muti spark inspiration in their success

Published: Nov. 7, 2023 at 10:52 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Barrow High School seniors Uatahouse Tu’ifua and Manusiu Muti are wrestling for themselves.

”I know all these guys are coming after me, so I just got to really stay on my ten toes and keep after it,” Tu’ifua said.

”It is my last year so I planning on putting on my best performance,” Muti said.

They are also wrestling for their community.

“I plan on putting on my best performance, not only for myself and trying to get up there ... but just performing for my home,” Muti added.

“Being raised there all my life, you really have to set a good example,” Tu’ifua said. “We really got to represent and be good role models for the city of Barrow.”

Muti became the Barrow’s first girls wrestling state champion when she took the heavyweight title last year, inspiring other young girls in the area they can do the same.

“We’re a really small town, a basketball town,” Muti said. “Getting wrestling up there and making it famous is something I want to do because it is a really great sport.”

“It is really exciting bringing [young wrestlers] in and seeing them grow and enjoy the sport and seeing them gain a passion for it.”

”She’s amazing, she is a leader on and off the mat, she is one of the hardest workers,” Barrow wrestling head coach Herman Reich said of Muti. “She is a huge contributing factor for building women’s wrestling in Barrow.”

Muti plays basketball and volleyball for the Whalers and also participates in the Native Youth Olympics.

”I just try to do my best every time and take care of the ones who are coming after me,” Muti said. ”I know my mom is proud of me so that’s all that matters.”

Tu’ifua is the two-time defending state champion at 285 pounds and is one of the most menacing and difficult wrestlers to take down in Alaska. He just completed his senior season of football where he helped lead the Whalers to the state championship game and was named the Division III Defensive Player of the Year.

“They are sort of intertwined because in football you got to tackle and that makes my shots good and visa versa, it really helps me out,” Tu’ifua said of the connection between football and wrestling.

He has been wrestling since sixth grade but didn’t necessarily expect to still be on the mat his senior year.

”Honestly, at first I didn’t really want to join the sport and then I had a good friend of mine, he really convinced me and it’s just been up since then,” Tu’ifua said

At 6-foot-2, 285 pounds, Tu’ifua is a figure the youth Whalers literally — and figuratively — look up to.

”Oh my goodness it means a ton seeing the kids ... some of them want to be like me and stuff like that. That really inspires me to do more and be better,” he said.

Whether Tu’ifua plays football or wrestles in college — realistic for either sport — academics will be at the forefront for the senior, who has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school and is interested in studying engineering.

”They call it ‘student-athlete’ and first comes ‘student,’” Tu’ifua said. “I like doing things with my hands, I like building stuff.”

Both wrestlers came away with titles in their respective divisions at the Mountain City Invitational over the weekend. They are both also undefeated on the year and will look to defend their championships at the state meet in December before picking up a basketball for the Whalers.

”They’re huge role models to everybody and everybody on the team,” Reich said. “Not just [in] wrestling, but every sport.”